Tonight I watched the recent remake of Stephen King's Carrie. It was terrible. The original had the bonus of an incredibly creepy Sissy Spacek and one of the most fun jump scares I can remember in a horror movie. In the new version I couldn't suspend my disbelief that anyone would be blind to Chloe Grace Moritz's beauty and charm. It didn't make much sense to me and I spent a good portion of the movie being irritated at the fact no one bothered to teach the actors how to sew. Carrie's lovely prom gown was magical in the fact that it had three inch seam allowances and no lock stitching. Neither film can live up to the book, but I often find that to be the case.
I've been thinking of the films that I've seen that live up to the experience of reading the book. I can think of three film adaptations that I think did a fine job of capturing and condensing the book into an entertaining and enjoyable feature that didn't leave me wishing for parts that were left out or scratching my head over changes made to the story.
The Green Mile is a wonderful Stephen King story, originally told as a set of chapter books released in several installments. When I was in college I had the joy of having the book read to me, a chapter at a time by my friend Kapoo. If you ever get the chance to have someone read a whole novel to you, jump at it. It is probably one of the most enjoyable experience you can have as a grown up. We take the simple pleasure of having a story read to us for granted when we reach the age where we can read on our own and audio books aren't the same as a live person reading to you. I was pretty sure when the movie hit theatres there was no way I would enjoy it as much as having it read to me. However it has become one of my favorite films of all time because they did such a wonderful job of telling the story. Everything is on point. The casting, the clothes, the special effects and the treatment of the fantastic story all come together to make the best translation of a book to the scream I can think of. If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and get a copy as soon as you can. It is three delightful hours that you won't regret. It also includes the BEST curse word in the history of time.
My second choice is Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and later books in the serires like Charlie and The Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl inspired this fantastic translation with Gene Wilder as a Willy Wonka, the candy maker and dreamer of dreams who sends his golden tickets out into the world hoping to find a worthy successor to his candy kingdom. Although there are many differences in the book and the film, the changes are very much in keeping with the world Dahl created and are tremendous fun. The film is a product of its time and may suffer slightly for modern viewers. There is an overwhelming amount of corduroy, polyester and loud orange and avacado prints and a few songs that are dead in the water (Cheer Up Charlie is always fast forwarded through unless I'm trying to sleep) but I still love the film as a whole and Gene Wilder in particular. If you ever choose to watch the miserable remake with Johnny Depp I'm sorry to say you'll never have those two hours back.
Finally I offer up The Help - a recent addition to books that made a lovely transition to the screen. The casting of this film was incredible, and I am so happy to see such an interesting novel make it to the screen in the hands of such wonderful actors. I would've loved to see Skeeter developed a bit more because she comes to life in Kathryn Stockett's novel in a way that isn't quite matched on screen but characters like Minny, the maid who can't keep her opinions to herself jump from the page in the most incredible way.
I'd love to hear about books you've read that made the transition from page to screen in an amazing way. I know there are many, and I like to be reminded of one's I forgot as much as I like to discover new gems. What books must I read before I see the films in your opinion? Are there any movies that you think outshine the story on the page? I must say that there are some television shows like The Walking Dead that make the transition from page to screen (television screen in this case) that blow me away by adding wonderful characters that I wish had been in the books. Screen writers have awesome ideas sometimes - I truly feel the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Haris could have been much better had True Blood's baby vamp Jessica in them. I also can't imagine a world without Daryl Dixon!
Tell me: what are the best and the worst book to film translations you can think of?